Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Chromalloy celebrates 60 years in aeroengine business

 - June 19, 2011, 6:00 AM

Chromalloy, one of the world’s largest independent providers of advanced coatings and repairs for gas turbine engines and a manufacturer of approved engine replacement parts, this year marks its 60th anniversary with ongoing growth and a change in scenery. The company this fall will relocate its corporate headquarters from Orangeburg, New York, to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The new site also will serve as an engine technology center of excellence.

Formed in 1951 as a research-and-development company in the metals processing field, Chromalloy has grown by partnering with engine original equipment manufacturers. As these OEMs became more aggressive in the engine aftermarket, it developed its own repair and parts design and manufacturing capabilities.

On the coatings side, Chromalloy has joint ventures with Rolls-Royce in the UK to provide advanced coatings for RB211 and Trent engine hot sections. In the U.S, it works with Pratt & Whitney to provide thermal barrier protection coatings used in commercial and military engines. It also provides coating services to engine makers Honeywell and GE Aviation.

On the repair side, Chromalloy says it has developed 3,000 designated engineering representative (DER) repairs approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, at a rate of 200 new DERs annually. The company counts more than 300,000 parts manufacturer approval (PMA) engine replacement parts in operation worldwide.

“Through the evolution of 60 years, the business model has developed in many ways from what was an OEM-centric base,” said Peter Howard, Chromalloy vice president of technology and quality assurance. “Today, we are the largest independent provider of aftermarket services, both repairs and replacement parts, but we still maintain close relationships with OEMs.”

Chromalloy now employs 4,000 people at 37 locations in 15 countries, with annual revenue of approximately $1 billion. It is part of the Sequa company, which in turn is owned by private equity operation The Carlyle Group.

The company’s primary focus is on turbine engine hot-section components, in the aft section of an engine where combustion takes place and extreme temperatures are generated. It serves the commercial air-transport, military and industrial gas turbine markets. Commercial aviation represents about 70 percent of its business.

“With the advanced engines that are coming out today, the turbine inlet temperatures are about 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Those kinds of temperatures are close to the melting point of the material,” Howard told AIN. “Today we’re very focused on thermal barrier coatings and how we allow the turbine components to operate at those kind of temperature environments [for] long periods of time.”

In March, Chromalloy unveiled plans for a new facility that will serve as a technology center of excellence for gas turbine engine research and development, as well as its new headquarters. The leased 30,000-sq-ft facility in Palm Beach Gardens will be organized with labs, office space and a 10,000-sq-ft warehouse. Meanwhile, manufacturing operations will continue in Orangeburg, where about 350 people are employed.

Chromalloy initially expects to employ 52 technical, executive and administrative staff at the new facility. Technical staff at engineering centers throughout the company, including the Turbine Design Analytics Group in Stuart, Florida, will be consolidated at Palm Beach Gardens.

“As the engines advance and get more sophisticated, the development and, more importantly, substantiation of repairs requires more testing, more analytical tools to validate the repairs,” said Howard. “We took a decision about 12 months ago that we wanted to centralize some of our engineering functions to support those kinds of activities. We’ll be staffing up an organization that over the course of the next three years will grow to 80 or 100 engineers.”

Last year, Chromalloy expanded its existing turbine engine component casting operation in Tampa by opening a 150,000-sq-ft investment casting foundry. The Chromalloy Castings center, operational since October, can produce up to one million pounds of superalloy components and parts for turbine engine hot sections, including vanes, nozzles and high-pressure turbine blades.

“As a company, we have the complete capability not only to design components, but also to do the complete manufacturing of the components through to certification–for example, through the FAA if it’s in the commercial arena,” said Howard. “Chromalloy’s value chain in that regard is quite unique because even the OEMs don’t have, typically, that value chain. They have to go outside to other companies.”

Further expanding in Florida, Chromalloy this February broke ground on a $5 million, 40,000-sq-ft ceramic core facility adjacent to the casting foundry in Tampa. Ceramic cores are used in the casting process to form cooling cavities within engine components, which is needed for components to operate effectively in hot and highly stressed sections of gas turbines. The ceramic core facility is expected to open early next year. Chromalloy’s BELAC joint venture with Lufthansa Technik and United Airlines, which designs and manufactures turbine engine components, is located nearby in Oldsmar.

In still another venture, Chromalloy is partnered with Rolls-Royce as one of several founding industry members developing the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Crosspointe, Virginia. The research center, a public/private effort involving the University of Virginia, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech, is intended to advance propulsion design and bridge the gap between university research and industry product development.

Crosspointe is the site of a new Rolls-Royce engine component manufacturing, assembly and test facility now under development. The 50,000-sq-ft Commonwealth research center will be built on a 20-acre site adjacent to the Rolls-Royce plant. Construction will begin in 2013.

“We are driving the coating technology agenda through that venture with Rolls-Royce, and we continue to work with the other OEMs in that advanced coating category,” said Howard.